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I'm just a believer that is recovering from my experience at Teen Mania's Honor Academy and I would like to share my journey of healing with you.

February 10, 2014

Reaction to Teen Mania International Alumni Conference Call

Teen Mania International setup a conference call for Ron Luce to explain why the ministry is in foreclosure and what their future plans are. The call lasted about an hour and can be heard here:





I will share a couple of the important moments below. Exact quotes in italics.

Ron Luce starts by explaining the causes for Teen Mania’s financial troubles. He takes zero responsibility for these problems accept in the vague "I'm a leader so the buck stops here" kind of way. Instead he lays the blame on external factors he could not control. He begins by blaming Teen Mania’s financial problems on the following:
  1. Economy since 2008
  2.  Fewer teenagers in this generation
  3.  Local electric co-op rates are too high 
  4. Campus is too expensive, costing $1 million per year to run. He said that the more they built up the campus, the more it costs to run. (One thinks they might have thought of that before and he never states he should have done things differently.)

10:50 – I’m amused when I see the words out there of people think that finances are being used in unscrupulous ways or whatever. I don’t know any ministry that runs any tighter budget than what we do.

18:35 – No, we are not in bankruptcy.

36:00 – Land advisers told us to give the property back to the bank. Appraised value is higher than the note. $15 million
39:07 – The note was 9.5 million.

At one point, Ron said that even if someone paid off the campus, it would still be too expensive to stay (over $1 million per year in operating costs).

The gist of the spin was that Teen Mania doesn’t need a campus and that renting is actually better than owning. I was surprised that Ron actually seemed to talk badly about the campus – like it was a pointless expense. He chalks it up to a "new season" of ministry. I guess God doesn't have a lot of forethought leading them into debt like that? Or maybe God doesn't mind leaving the bank with the bill. Ron also tried to justify going into foreclosure because the bank has made a lot of money off them in interest.

In addition to renting property in the future, they also plan to rent the equipment for ATFs from now on. Is that because the ATF equipment was part of the collateral for their note? Quite possibly. Ron made a lot of vague promises with very little to back them up. He said that the ministry would do even more ATFs with less resources, but gave no plan outlining how that’s possible. Could that be because there is no actual plan?


In fact, no actual concrete plans were given throughout the call for anything - the move to Dallas, the "new" ministry focus, etc. This shows that Teen Mania  move isn’t motivated by actual vision and forethought, but as a reaction to their foreclosure. Otherwise, they would be able to tell us what they are doing in Dallas. 

To finish the call, Ron took the last few minutes to share that he called me in August of 2012. I was upset that Ron misrepresented that phone call. Listeners were left with the impression that things between us were rosy and that I quit blogging because of his phone call. Neither of those are true. 

Things that Ron said that were true about the phone call:

Things that Ron said that were NOT true about our phone call:
  •  I did not “tell him how I became bitter.” The fact that he would even use that language shows that doesn’t even understand ANYTHING about my position or what the recovering alumni community is all about. It is a complete disregard of the essence of the issue, again pinning the blame on the victims. If I did mention anything about my emotional state, I’m sure it was that I was absolutely heartbroken, devastated and confused.
  • I did not tell him that I was permanently quitting the blog. In fact, I remember telling him that I would keep my eye on him and he chuckled at that. By that time, I was already blogging less frequently and considering if it was time to finish.

Things that Ron left out about our phone call:


Unfortunately, this is the only phone call I’ve had with Teen Mania that was not recorded (as I was caught quite off guard, as you can imagine.) However, I’ve referenced my notes of the phone call to refresh my memory. There was nothing about the phone call that was truly genuine in any way and it did nothing to change my views of Ron Luce or Teen Mania, especially considering that he put the blame on everyone else but himself (Dave Hasz, Board of Directors).


7 comments:

A few things come to mind on cost savings and cutting.
1) In renting lighting /audio and video gear for the weekend is not cheap. Also the company that lets them rent, normally will not let them run it. They send their own people to managed the setup ($$$) and run of the audio($$$) and then video production ($$$)
2) You are still renting the venue $$$$ we all know if you have worked an ATF the ticket sales do not cover the venue at time.
3) You still need to travel to the location so Bus, Gas, Food etc
4) When ATF goes overseas the cost will increase. (Airfare, Number of staff to travel, Hotels etc $$$
5) IN the days of Tulsa the interns paid for their own food rent apt supplies now they are going to cover that where is the ($$$) for that (We all have been told that the tuition alone did not cover all that so many times before)
6) Office space in Dallas is not cheap for what they need ($$$)
7) The whole cost of moving the ministry from GV to Dallas ($$$)
8) Mission are they going to do the old Miami days. Well guess what that cost $$$$$
9) the stat that was used on the graduating class, was way off. the USBoE stated 2013 graduation rate was the highest in the past 40 years
10) The 30k upgrade to the HA conference room and using the line because we are in the middle of no where or I know you will not agree with me. Really ......Really you did not think you were in the middle of no where before this expense. And were was the financial responsible person that stood up to the purchase request and said oh hell no we are bleeding money here. (Nope just a bunch of Yes Men)
11) I was one of the movers in my year so I know what the interns will go though. None stop sleepless nights to move (what they can and what they are not selling) to the New location in Dallas.
12) Whats going to happen to all of the property Hazs owned in that neck of the works TM was renting from him. does he get the shaft again

I can go on but im going to let others chime in on the above or add to it

Thanks
MM

How do they expect any new people after this? It's one thing to relocate, but foreclosure? Did he say why renting is better than owning? Does anyone else remember the story he told about how he apparently paid his whole way through school without receiving any money from anyone else? Where were those money skills? And since when are those "worldly circumstances" given such credence? Anyway, just a few thoughts lol

The thing that I viewed the comments about the "marriage of ATF and GE" was that they are likely going to make ATF working part of a form of "short term mission". The ones over seas will probably be part of GE trips meaning all these kids will be paying to run an ATF.

I still have such a hard time understanding Ron speak. It is interesting to hear people holding him to task that aren't members of TM though. I have more thoughts but my head is full right now.

I’m still tying to listen to the call... I’m getting this error message
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is there anything else I can do to listen to it?

Studying economics in America today renting is better than owning. You can see that with a simple Future Value study. Not that Ron is completely right everything he has said business wise makes since if you watch the market and economic trends, most people posting seem to have no idea what they are talking about.

I was an intern in 1990-1991. In 23 years the one item I resonated with is the idea that they are running full speed, "changing the tires on the car even while it's moving" etc. That is indicative, sadly, of what demolishes well intentioned ministries. In real life, this destroys people (analogy of changing the tires on a moving car). Why is that the culture of the ministry, that leads to confusions (as Ron mentions around 44-45 minutes in). That there is a general "culture of confusion" over ideas, implementation, etc.? I went to Guatemala in 1988 - TM's 2nd year in existence. I am so blessed that God allowed for Keith Wheeler to be the internship director for the year I was there as an intern. It breaks my heart to see the Goliath it has become rather than the nimble David with the heart after God.

As a youth pastor who stop taking kids to Acquire the Fire when I heard a story that had actually happened to me and a friend from college be told word for word as if it happened to the speaker. I called my friend from college and quickly discovered that he had shared the story with the speaker when they where at the same church a few years before. The story involved me picking up a snake I thought was harmless and turned out to be water moccasin. It is used to illustrate that one cannot play with sin because it will always end up hurting you. My students had heard the story from me, and knew it immediately.

It was a minor point that the speaker used himself as the one these events occurred too. However, it was dishonest. I confronted the speaker who admitted it was a lie to claim it happened to him, but was dismissive of the concern. I forward his email to Teen mania and nothing was done. In fact, the speaker continued to use the story for several years always with himself as the hero.

It seems that the moral of the story was lost on the "ministry"

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